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2024 Educators & Staff Members of the Year


At its meeting on Monday, May 14, 2024, the Livingston Board of Education recognized the district’s 2024 Governor’s Educators of the Year, the Educational Services Professional of the Year, and Support Personnel of the Year. WATCH THE MEETING HERE!


The New Jersey Department of Education (NJDOE) strives to recognize educators who have gone above and beyond in their service to New Jersey’s students. Therefore, every school in every district in NJ is encouraged to participate in the Governor's Educator of the Year program to honor the hardworking teachers and educational services professionals for their dedication to their students and the profession. The LPS celebration integrates what the district used to call the “Teacher of the Year” program with the “Governor’s Teacher/Educational Services Professional Recognition Program” to continue to recognize our state’s extraordinary teachers and educational services professionals.


In addition, this year the district chose to honor four exemplary members of the LPS support staff. 


Prior to the ceremony, all of the honorees enjoyed dinner with school board members and district administrators. After dinner, they were joined by family members and friends in the LHS auditorium where school principals introduced the honorees and presented them with a plaque.




Principal Dr. Lisa Sama-Barreto proudly introduced first grade teacher, Wendy Weiner, as Burnet Hill Elementary’s Governor's Educator of the Year. 


Dr. Sama-Barreto noted that Ms. Weiner began her teaching career at Burnet Hill 23 years ago. 


“She taught in kindergarten for a few years and has been a first grade teacher for the majority of her career. As a first grade team member, Wendy can be counted on to share her knowledge regarding curriculum, classroom management, and best instructional practices,” said Dr. Sama-Barreto. “She is always available to lend her support to her colleagues when needed. As a teacher, Wendy works diligently to advocate for her students making sure they have everything they need to succeed and makes special connections with her families.”


Dr. Sama-Barreto highlighted that Ms. Weiner spearheaded the Pajama Program at Burnet Hill which has collected thousands of pajamas for children who are in need over the years. 


Collins Elementary’s Governor's Educator of the Year, Victoria Kenney, was introduced by principal Mrs. Michelle Cebula, who noted that Kenney’s “empathy and compassion distinguish her as one of the most caring individuals I've ever had the pleasure of knowing.”


“Each and every day, she comes to work with a positive attitude despite any obstacle. She treats each of her students with respect and has strong relationships with families throughout the Collins community,” said Mrs. Cebula. “Mrs. Kenney's dedication to her students is evident not only in her day-to-day interactions but also in her very detailed planning. Her lesson plans are lengthy and comprehensive.”

Mrs. Cebula noted that Mrs. Kenney is the sole reading instructor for fourth grade at Collins, and as such collaborates with the reading intervention team and her special education colleagues to ensure every child receives tailored support.

Principal Dan Garcia introduced third grade teacher Joanna Horwitz as Harrison Elementary’s Governor’s Educator of the Year.


Joanna’s journey as a teacher at Harrison spans over 8 years during which she has consistently demonstrated an unwavering commitment to her students’ growth and well-being. 


“She shared that her favorite moment every year is meeting her students on the first day of school and connecting with a whole new group of families. If you were to ask Joanna’s students about her class they would tell you they have fun. Joanna knows the importance of infusing joy and enthusiasm into every lesson. She knows that if she’s having fun, her students are as well.”


He noted that her impact extends beyond the classroom walls, noting her colleagues describe her as a “clear leader who is always supportive, motivating and inspiring.”


Hillside Elementary’s Governor's Educator of the Year, fourth grade teacher Justin Grossman was introduced by principal Carlos Gramata. Mr. Gramat described Mr. Grossman as an “exceptional educator” and “a true advocate for every student who walks into his classroom.”


Mr. Gramata added, “He deeply values the education of the whole child, working tirelessly with students and families to foster a classroom environment where every student feels valued, supported, and encouraged to take risks and be themselves. Character education and social-emotional learning are not just components of his teaching; they are the foundation of life in his classroom.”

Mr. Gramata pointed out that Mr. Grossman actively participates in and chairs numerous school committees and serves on district committees, noting that “his contributions bring an invaluable perspective to these discussions, representing our school with unwavering integrity.”


Principal Dr. Lorena Dolan introduced Dana Wallock as Mt. Pleasant Elementary’s Governor's Educator of the Year.


“Dana is more than just a teacher; she is a collaborator, a leader, and a source of inspiration for us all,” said Dr. Dolan. “Her proactive approach to teaching is evident in her willingness to take initiative, whether it's planning innovative lessons, spearheading school-wide initiatives, or lending a helping hand wherever it's needed. Dana's dedication to collaboration knows no bounds; she's the first to volunteer her time and expertise, always eager to work alongside her colleagues to enhance the educational experience for our students.”


Dr. Dolan pointed out that Ms. Wallock was nominated by several of her colleagues, noting “Dana's contributions have been nothing short of extraordinary. From her boundless energy in the classroom to her unwavering commitment to student success, Dana has added immeasurable value to MPE.”


Riker Hill Elementary principal Justin Toomey announced that Giulia Melucci was chosen as Riker Hill’s Governor’s Educator of the Year. 


“Ms. Melucci's unwavering dedication to her students' well-being and success is nothing short of extraordinary,” said Mr. Toomey. “She possesses a remarkable ability to understand and cater to the individual needs of each child, ensuring that every student feels supported, valued, and empowered to succeed…Her innovative teaching methods captivate young minds, fostering a love for learning that transcends the classroom walls.”


Mr. Toomey stated that Ms. Melucci  goes above and beyond for her students, earning not only their love but also their respect. 


Mt. Pleasant Middle School’s Governor’s Educator of the Year, Katy Quillen, was introduced by principal Bronawyn O’Leary, who highlighted Ms. Quillen’s “unwavering commitment to fostering a love for science among her students.”


Mrs. O’Leary continued, “Her classroom is a dynamic space where curiosity thrives and knowledge is arrived at through sense-making. Ms. Quillen has a dedication to inclusivity and accessibility in science education, ensuring that every student has equal access to high-quality science educational content.  She creates an environment where intellectual curiosity is celebrated by encouraging students to ask questions, conduct experiments, and explore their own hypotheses.  Students are encouraged to explore phenomena, while fostering a culture of respect and critical thinking.”


Principal Shawn Kelly introduced Robin Altomare as Heritage Middle School’s Governor’s Educator of the Year.


He described Ms. Altomare as an “outstanding colleague, “mentor,” “selfless,” and “dedicated.”

“When I think about Robin Altomare, the first thing that comes to mind is that she is a fierce advocate for kids,” said Mr. Kelly. “She treats and takes care of her students as if they are her own, balancing out giving them what they need to be successful while also pushing them to go beyond even what they think they are capable of doing themselves.”


Livingston High School’s Governor’s Educator of the Year, Kelly Rocco, was introduced by principal Danielle Rosenzweig, who described Rocco as “a go-to for students and colleagues” who has made a difference within her department and the greater school community. 


Ms. Rosenzweig noted that Ms. Rocco has taught all levels of classes at LHS, and helped develop a new AP class, writing curriculum and creating class materials.  In addition, she has also been active in the school community by serving as class advisor, spending countless hours organizing and chaperoning activities, and serving on various school committees. 


Ms. Rosenzweig stated, “She cares deeply about her students and works hard to help each one reach their potential. It is not unusual to find her at school early in the morning working with students and also after school. Her passion for teaching is evident when you walk into her classroom as her classes are lively, engaging, and student-centered.”

Assistant Superintendent Lisa Capone-Steiger announced that Jacqueline Byrne was named the Livingston Educational Service Provider (ESP) of the Year. This honor goes to a member of the LPS educational staff who has made significant contributions to their school and the district. 

Mrs. Steiger described Ms. Byrne as kind, patient, compassionate, thoughtful, a team-player, reflective, and generous.  

“I want to use my time to simply highlight how Jacqui is generous.  When we think of generous people we often think of people who give money or gifts - and while I know Jacqui is generous in that way, she is also generous in a way that most people are not.  Jacqui is generous with her time,” said Mrs. Steiger. “She is the type of person who will stop everything to help a colleague, a student, or family. She shows up for all of us in a million ways whether it be making a phone call to check in, or helping at a special event we are excited about, or volunteering to lead a training with district volunteers, or even just sitting and listening. Jacqui is generous with her time in ways that reminds us all how important a good friend, a good colleague, and a good school counselor really are in our lives.”


LPS Support Personnel of the Year included LLoyd Hamilton, Daniel Kapuscinski, Percival Robinson and Hemantha Ramanayake. These honors go to members of the LPS support staff who have made significant contributions to their school and the district. 

LHS Principal Daniele Rosenzweig introduced Lloyd Hamilton.

In her comments, she said, “When collecting nominations for educational support professional of the year, the following adjectives were used to describe Lloyd: positive, hard-working, kind, approachable, selfless, reliable, collegial, and smiley…Working the night shift in a building that never sleeps, no matter how hectic an evening might be, Lloyd always remains calm and poised, willing to handle any request that comes his way. He is always willing to drop what he’s doing to help you with whatever it is you need, and always with a smile on his face. He takes great pride and ownership of his work.”

Technology director Teresa Rehman introduced Daniel Kapuscinski. She described him as someone with “a strong work ethic, a willingness to learn, and a positive attitude that has benefited both staff and students.” 

She continued, “Dan’s initiative and problem solving skills enabled him to  quickly grasp complex technical concepts and procedures of the TV Studio and he has consistently sought to help better the educational environment of the TV studio areas. He has also contributed to the classroom environment for Music Technology by helping and making suggestions for improvement of the room layout. In addition, Dan supports the AV needs of all Board meetings. He is reliable and dependable and is always pleasant and cordial as well as professional in his approach modeling appropriate decorum for both staff and students.”

Burnet Hill Elementary Principal Dr. Lisa Sama-Barreto introduced head playground aide Percival Robinson and teacher’s aide Hemantha Ramanayake.

About Mr. Robinson, she said, “Percy is a wonderful addition to the front office. He is always willing to lend a helping hand with whatever tasks are needed. He has a great rapport with our staff and students alike. He can always be seen outside with the students at recess. He is friendly and dependable. Thank you for all that you do for the children of Burnet Hill.”

Regarding Ms. Ramanayake, she said “Her colleagues describe her as ‘a quiet hero’ and someone who works diligently with her students supporting their needs. As a resource room TA and SAS, Hemantha works side by side with her classroom teachers inquiring about curriculum in order to support her students. She is patient, kind, hardworking, and warm. Her students know they are cared for each day and I am thankful to have Hematha as a part of the Burnet Hill family.”